B y Lee Tugas
Franklin Delano Roosevelt collected stamps. John Wayne collected antique guns.
One would expect Sgt. Dick LaChapelle to follow Wayne’s example, but that’s where he fools you.
No, LaChapelle doesn’t collect stamps. But his collection of police patches from around the country is one that would have brought a smile to the faces of both FDR and The Duke.
LaChapelle’s collection starts in his office. It sprawls across the top of two walls, like a multi-colored wallpaper border.
But over the years, the collection has grown so large that it has spilled out into the waiting room of the new police station in the Whitehall Municipal Building. There, an uncounted number of colorful patches are mounted, like butterflies, in a glass-enclosed, poster-sized frame.
LaChapelle started collecting in 1985.
“I’ve picked up more than 600 over the years,” the veteran police officer said, as he sat in his small office, his formidable collection looming above him.
LaChapelle’s interest in collecting patches began before he even became a police officer nearly 30 years ago.
“The village did away with the fire department, and I was asked to become a police officer in December of 1985,” he said.
“I started basic school at the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, and I saw that those guys were collecting patches. I thought it would be a nice idea, but I never expected I would get as many as I’ve got,” he said.
Time and police conferences
LaChapelle does not get the patches off Ebay.
“I go to seminars, to police schools throughout the Northeast.”
He recalled attending seminars in New York state, in Pennsylvania and in New Hampshire.
“I got a lot from the seminar in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire,” he said.
A constabulary catalog
There isn’t enough column space to list all of LaChapelle’s patches. The collection includes patches from as near as Washington County and as far as Texas.
There are patches from the St Lawrence Police; Waterloo, Ohio; El Dorado, Texas; Queensbury Police (no longer in existence); Greenwich and Salem Police (combined); Baltimore City Police; Nassau County; City of Orem Police; Fairfax County Virginia; Cochise Co, Texas; Minneapolis Police; South Carolina; and Quebec and Montreal, Canada.
The framed exhibit in the waiting room contains probably about another couple hundred colorful patches. It can be hard to recall the various hues on display, but the overall-effect is warm and inviting, like a quilt made by one’s grandmother.
LaChapelle did not need to say he would continue collecting. He did not have to. After all, two remaining walls in his office cry out for his forensic kind of wallpaper border.